Joy in Suffering Marks a True Believer

Real joy in suffering is a mark of a true believer and a witness to unbelievers. What else explains the joy exuded today by Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman whose devastating diving accident as a teenager left her a quadriplegic, as she testifies to God’s faithfulness while advocating for those with disabilities around the world?

Or consider my dear friend Kristen. Diagnosed with a rare eye condition as a young girl, she is legally blind, yet she is one of the most joyful and generous people I know, always eager to talk about Christ and his love with others.

Joni and Kristen “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) because, even though legs won’t move and eyes can’t see, their souls are safe. We too can be joyful, even in our trials. Like Peter’s original readers, we rejoice because of the gospel and what it means for us.

We too know “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

We look forward to an “imperishable, undefiled and unfading” inheritance (v 4).

We are “being guarded through faith for … salvation” (v 5).

As we rejoice, we may be surprised to discover an increased assurance of our salvation. The more we savor our salvation, the more joyful we become; the more joyful we are, the more confident we are of our salvation. Not only that, but observant friends and family will notice when we display authentic joy that doesn’t add up given circumstances that would make most sufferers despair.

But some days, the hard is just so hard, and the pain is so very painful. Some days, all we hear is the nagging voice of doubt, and all we feel is anguished uncertainty—not joy. It’s especially important in such times that we drink great draughts from the life-giving well of our salvation

God Is Our Salvation

Joy isn’t pretending to be happy. It involves digging down to a well even deeper than happiness, one that genuinely refreshes and restores. And here the prophet Isaiah’s words are helpful:

“‘Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the Lord God is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.’

With joy you will draw water

from the wells of salvation.”

Isaiah 12:2-3

Isaiah foresaw the day when God’s people would, with joy, “draw water from the wells of salvation,” and he connected the source of that “water” with God himself. And because God is our salvation, we too can trust and not be afraid; we too can declare that God is our strength, our song, and our salvation.

Knowing God is our salvation doesn’t lead us to fake smiles but to joy-through-tears, opening our hearts to sing words like those in an old hymn that I frequently sing to my children before bed, “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word.”

And drinking from this well, just like true joy, won’t contradict your sorrow. Instead, it will sustain you in the midst of it—when your mother is diagnosed with cancer, your prodigal child asks for more money, your home burns to the ground, or your spouse deserts you.

We live in the middle-land, seeing spiritual realities “in a mirror dimly,” if at all (1 Corinthians 13:12). Sometimes the voice of doubt can scream loud. Yet even in this middle-land, God, who is our salvation, invites us to “believe in [Jesus] and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). When we do, we obtain “the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

This is an excerpt from He Will Be Enough by Katie Faris, a journaling devotional containing 20 biblical reflections that examine truths about God and show how they anchor the soul in hard times.